Saturday, November 17, 2007

Field Trip

I've bemoaned NaNoWriMo several times already this month. I've been blocked for days, even a week; I'm horribly behind in my word count. Lesson learned? Start the research early.

But I made up some time today by dragging my sweet family four hours south, to Port Gibson, Mississippi, the site of the battle that killed my 22-year-old cousin Isaac, one hundred forty-four years ago.

We saw Isaac's grave at Wintergreen Cemetery, along with the graves of other Confederate soldiers who died in (or sometime after, due to injuries incurred in) the Battle of Port Gibson. We tromped through the graveyard, looking for any sign of the woman who took care of him for the six weeks after the battle, until he died. The woman who wrote a beautiful letter to his mother, telling her the horrible, yet probably unsurprising, news that her son had died. The letter that started this book.

And then we visited Great Gulf Military Park, site of a battle the few days before the Battle of Port Gibson. I scouted around, looking for any signs of my cousins, who were members of Company B of the Sixth Missouri Infantry. Success! I found a rifle embankment with a sign that specifically states that the 6th Missouri held that position. Which meant I did what any mother would do...I made the kids lie down in the embankment and point gun fingers at me, and I took pictures. We also saw a Civil War ambulance, possibly the same one that transported my wounded cousin to his final home, a makeshift hospital staffed by young women whose husbands were likely in some other place, fighting in the same war.

I expected this trip would help me write, particularly descriptions of the town. Many of the buildings, especially churches, are the same buildings that stood in Port Gibson a century and a half ago. The Presbyterian church with the golden hand pointing heavenward on the top of the steeple. The Catholic church with the hand-carved altar rail. Several antebellum mansions. I wanted, and expected, to get a sense of place.

What I didn't expect was that Isaac would talk to me the rest of the way home. No, I don't mean in some psychic, "from beyond the grave" type thing. Nothing like that.

But he's talking to me, trying to tell his side of the story. And I need to get back to transcribing.


Noodle said...

So that's why you didn't stop by with chess pie for me to taste! :)

Post some photos! That's so funny that we both spent today wandering around old cemeteries. LOL

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